Wangdue Phodrang is a small town outside the gates of the Dzong.
Its name derived from the Dzong that imposingly stands prominently and serves as a symbol of the place. Formerly Bhutan’s second capital, it played an important role in the country’s rich history.
Welcomed by the eight chortens that mark the entry to Wangdue, a visit is not complete without hiking to Wangdue Dzong and discovering its interior. Admire the dedication of those who shed sweat, blood, and life to ensure the completion of this structure that has become a great landmark of the town. Make a stop at Gangte Goemba where you can spend time in reflection, and be one with nature. Explore Nyelung Dencheling and get introduced to the intricate beliefs of the Bhutanese people. Admire the townsfolk’s skills in bamboo and slate carving — talents that are traceable to centuries of skills handed faithfully to the latest generation. This unique cultural handover is not only a treasure of the place but a sure means of livelihood for the residents. Interesting souvenirs and home decors produced by crafty hands are readily available for the eager buyers and collectors.
The usual cab fare rate from Thimphu to Wangdue is BTN 1,190 (USD 17.22) for a distance of around 106 kilometres. Traveling through the Southern border from Gelephu to Wangdue for a distance of around 214 kilometres costs around BTN 3,332 (USD 48.22). From the western border town of Phuentsholing to Wangdue, the fare costs around BTN 3,893 (USD 56.34) for around 261 kilometres. From Punakha to Wangdue, the fare costs around BTN 2,856 (USD 41.33) at a distance of 196 kilometres. Travel from Paro to Wangdue costs around BTN 1,488 (USD 21.54) for 147 kilometres.
Bhutan’s unit of currency is the Ngultrum (BTN) which is pegged to the Indian Rupee (INR). The Indian Rupee is liberally used in Bhutan except for the 500 and 1000 denominations due to the rampant counterfeit bills. Credit cards are only frequently used in areas flocked by tourists. Most high-end hotels also accept credit cards but it is still best to carry cash if you’re traveling outside of the commercial centres.
All tourists are required to pay USD 250 per person per day, this is lowered to USD 200 during December to February and June to August of every year with a surcharge of USD 40/30 per person in a group of one or two. Possible charges can be meted to tourists for activities not included in the package. Children below 12 years old are exempted from the Royal Component of USD 65.00.
The best time to visit Wangdue Phodrang is in the spring months of March to May as the weather during this time is conducive to trekking and sightseeing. September to November is the best time to witness the festivals. The views of the Himalayas are great during this time. At the same time, the presence of black-neck cranes is frequent and abundant.
December to February is the cold season and during this time, the country’s tourist attractions are not crowded. The wet season is from June to August when trekking and other water activities like rafting are not advisable, but it can be the ideal time to visit places of worship. During this season, it is best to keep an umbrella on hand for sudden heavy downpours.
A small number of minibuses cater to the needs of the riding public in Wangdue. It is highly advisable though to use rented vehicles so as not to experience any inconvenience or time delay in moving from one place to another.
Wangdue Phodrang’s dishes are truly Bhutanese. A Bhutanese meal is not complete without Ema Datshi. A combination of cheese and chilli prepared delicately to perk up one’s appetite. There is also Shakam Paa, dried beef cooked with dried chilli and slices of radish. Who can resist the taste of Sikam Paa — dried pork belly fried up with chilli? A lot more delicacies are just waiting for the daring visitor to taste them all. Without a doubt, the discovery will be satisfying.
There’s a certain calm in this place, an ambience that seems to invite everyone to stop and meditate. A land full of religious landmarks, Wangdue Phodrang is a great place where you can get an introduction to the beliefs and culture of Bhutan.